The impasse over the financing of the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane one project is likely to end soon, as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has given its consent to fund the development project.
Officials at the Economic Relations Division and donor organisations have confirmed this.
Economic Relations Division officials said the division requested the ADB to finance the proposed project, under the directives of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Later, in the middle of the last month, a delegation of the ADB visited Bangladesh and confirmed the funding.
Economic Relations Division Secretary Monowar Ahmed told Business Standard negotiations with the ADB on loan terms will begin now. The agreement is likely to be signed within the current fiscal year.
He also said earlier this project included the construction of a service lane on one side of the highway for slow-moving vehicles. Now, there will be service lanes on both sides, which is why the cost of the project will increase, he added.
"However, the total cost of the project could be estimated only after the ADB completes its survey. Only then, we will know what percentage of the project will be funded by the ADB," Monowar Ahmed said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Bangladesh from October 14 to October 15 in 2016. During the visit, Bangladesh and China signed 27 deals and memorandums of understanding involving about $20 billion as loan from China. Among the projects which were supposed to get Chinese fund under the agreement, there was the expansion of the Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four lanes. The loan agreements were expected to be signed between 2016 and 2020.
However, because of China's bureaucratic complexity over sanctioning loans, agreements on only seven projects involving a total of $5.4-billion loan could have been signed thus far. Of the amount, only $981.36 million have been disbursed by now. As a result, there is uncertainty over Chinese financing in the four-lane project on Dhaka-Sylhet highway by 2020. The country had promised to lend Bangladesh $2,110 million for the project.
The government, on the other hand, wants to start the project soon as per its promise. Against this backdrop, the Bangladesh government has taken the initiative to obtain finance from the ADB, instead of sitting idle waiting for Chinese funds.
Additional Chief Engineer (Sylhet Zone) Tushar Kanti Saha of the implementing agency the Road Transport and Highways Division said, "The government wants to implement the project quickly. Already, emphasis has been given on land acquisition so that the project work can be started immediately after the loan is approved."
Sources at the ADB's Dhaka office said how long the highway will be, and how many bridges and flyovers will be constructed on the highway are being reviewed now. The total cost of the project will be determined based on these factors.
According to sources, more than fifty bridges and culverts will be constructed on 226-km Dhaka-Sylhet Highway. Besides, four flyovers with a total length of 4,358 metres will be constructed. The flyovers will be constructed in Bhairab of Kishoreganj, Goala Bazar, Tajpur and Dayamoyi Bazar areas of Sylhet.
Rail overpasses will be constructed in Narsingdi, Bhairab of Kishoreganj, Olipur, and Lashkarpur of Habiganj and Sylhet. The highway will be connected with the Asian Highway.
Earlier at the beginning of 2018, China Harbor Engineering Company, a designated contractor for the Chinese government, was blacklisted for offering a bribe of Tk50 lakh to the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane development project. Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, the then finance minister disclosed the matter at a press conference on January 17, 2018.
Later the blacklisted company was also axed from the construction project of the Marine Drive Expressway from Sitakunda of Chattogram to Cox's Bazar.
According to the survey of 2014, the government estimated a cost of about Tk10,370 crore for the 226-km Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project. On the other hand, China Harbor's proposal was Tk12,668 crore. There was a gap of Tk1,888 crore between government estimation and the company's proposal.
It was alleged that the organisation wanted to bag the project at the increased cost in exchange for bribery.
China Harbor is one of the top companies in the global construction industry. They are working in about 80 countries.